Homily: August 27, Feast of St. Monica

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Gospel today is full of crisis.

Woe to you and to you.

Woe to me, perhaps especially to me.

We know that our world is filled with real woes, but it is also filled with woes of our own design.

Spend a minute on any news website. See what is happening in the world. See how crisis is erupting here and here and here, at every turn. See how our leaders, in the Church, in the world, are beset with lies and corruption and discontent. See that in our time all of the communities of the world have become close-living communities.

Brothers and sisters, this is a "close-living" community. Now it is all new, but in a little while you will discover what was never hinted at in orientation.

Brothers who struggle with all kinds of messes, with problems that they understand, you understand and some that you do not yet understand.

Brothers who fail to fulfill your expectations about what a good seminarian or a good priest must be, who may struggle but falter again and again, sometimes publicly and sometimes privately, in the discomfort of their rooms.

Brothers who are foul and ill-mannered, some of whom looked perfectly fine when they pulled up to the front steps.

Faculty who are sometimes relentlessly finicky and precise. Faculty who CLAIM to understand but in reality do not, impatient, beset by their own worries and problems.

Formation staff who are sometimes all too human, who snap, crackle and pop their way through the week like a breakfast cereal.

Rectors who, well, let's leave him alone for a minute.

In a close-living community, the scars show themselves sometimes as woes. The scars show themselves like this:

Woe to you for your smart mouth, whose HUMOR makes me look inadequate.

Woe to you pietistic EXEMPLAR for making me feel spiritually lacking.

Woe to you idiot teacher who causes me embarrassment and pain in front of my friends.

Woe to you student for asking the embarrassing question to try and make yourself look better.

Woe to you Fr. Denis for failing to see my hurt and my pain.

Brothers and sisters, no doubt there are woes.

In us, in the world, there are woes.

In the lives of the saints, even, there were woes.

St. Monica certainly had her woes. She was, after all, the mother of the fornicating, ideologically changeable son, St. Augustine.

But here is the good news.

We also have in this community something the saints knew well, the means of healing. That is, we have the Gospel, we have the Church's worship, we have the sacraments and we have HOPE.

In the midst of sin and division and pain and conflict, we have HOPE.

All of the saints were sinners and they knew very well they were sinners. They lied, they cheated, they played fast and loose with the rules. They were sinners. Woe to them.

But they were also men and women who wanted something else. They wanted to be saints. They had HOPE.

We are sinners too. We are also likely saints. At least we are candidates.

Can we put away some of the sinner's woe and take up the mantle of kindness, of pastoral concern, of Jesus, the mantle of love that makes even a close-living community work?

Can we put aside our self-righteousness and our intellectual pride for a minute and become attentive hearers to the formation that is going on around me?

Can we put side this or that so-called passion for the ideals of what we conceive as orthodoxy or justice or whatever?

I know we can, because I see it every year. Old sinners transmogrify into saints because they give themselves away here, love here, sacrifice here, learn here, practice here, really live here.

St. Augustine once said:

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men angels.

And what is humility? Brothers and sisters, it is love.

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of our brothers and sisters. That is what love looks like. It looks like a body given away. It looks like blood poured out.

Here is the thing I want you all to know today: St. Paul said it best,

We always pray for you,
that our God may make you worthy of his calling
and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose
and every effort of faith,
that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you,
and you in him,
in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.